Thursday, March 31, 2005
Brett is the opposite. It's 11:00 on the day of the flight and he has yet to begin packing, or bring his suitcase up from the basement even. Our taxi arrives at 2:30. Somewhere in the next hour, he'll frantically grab armlaods of clothes, cram them into his suitcase unfolded, shove a bunch of stuff in the backpack he uses for a carryon, and call himself done.
And yet, when we get there, he'll miraculously have everything he needs.
To my credit, I'm so used to this that I've hardly even mentioned packing to him today. If he's not on it by noon I'll probably have to bring it up, but I know he'll get it done.
Still, traveling like that would stress me the hell out.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Sunday, March 27, 2005
I've been thinking for a while about how obsessed I am about one particular room in the new house -- in the back corner of the house, off the kitchen, is a lovely little room that looks out over the back yard gardens. This room is going to be mineminemine -- my office, my writing area, my quiet little respite from the rest of the house, somewhere to house all my gardening books and somewhere I can set things up exactly the way I want it without having to deal with anyone else's mess. I'm more excited about having this room than I am about almost anything else in the whole house. I like the size of it, I like the light it gets, I like that it's off the kitchen and therefore connected with the heart of the home, but there's more too it than this.
We've been really happy in our current house, and I think that starting your married life out in a very small house is actually a really good idea - it gets you good at communicating and understanding what being married really means fast.
But privacy is the one thing we have none of here. I don't know how Brett feels this, but I'm sure it impinges on him too. For me, it comes down to sound and clutter. I have a hard time doing creative work in noisy, chaotic environments, and that seems to be the atmosphere that Brett's creativity thrives in best.
Brett likes music on all the time, everywhere - music while he's reading, music while he's working on his computer in the office we share, music while he washes the dishes, etc. I like things a lot more quiet. Music sometimes, but never while I'm trying to think or read or write. And while I'm not exactly neat myself, my tolerance for clutter is a lot lower than Brett's, especially when it comes to my desk and work areas - I need them kept clear of distractions, and the aesthetics of my surroundings have a huge impact on how I feel and what I get done.
It works out and hasn't been that much of an overt strain, but it's something I'm often aware of.
I've realized that sandwiched together in this little house where we share all of the basic living areas equally, it's really hard to feel like anything here is really a refuge, like anything belongs solely to me. I've never lived with anyone before, and I had no idea how much some part of me would miss having living space that I created and that was just for me, focused entirely on what I wanted and needed. I love being married and living together, but I guess I've been longing for some space to carve out for myself.
And so, I'm dreaming about my little room across the street. I've got it all set up in my head. The walls are going to be a leafy green, and I'm thinking about painting the inside of the closet a robin's egg blue and leaving that door open so you can see the contrast. I'm going to set up my desk so that I can see the gardens when I sit down to work. The bookcases will have all of my gardening and art and writing books. My botanical prints will be hanging on the walls. There will be no stereo. :) There will be cats sleeping in the armchair I have to find somewhere.
It will be perfect. My little room off the kitchen.
I've just barely started turning this yard into a great garden, and now I have to leave it, let it go? After the hours and hours and hours and hours of work I put into it last year, taking it from six foot weeds to at least a passable set of gardens?
That's kind of hard to accept, happy as I am about the move in every other respect.
So this weekend, I was out at Fred Meyer, supposedly looking for picture frames, but being frustrated in that pursuit I drifted into their garden section, where there were all sorts of goodies on display. Oh lord, how I love springtime. Vegetable starters! Spring poppies! And... uh oh... delphinium starts. Is it delphinium time already?
Last year, somewhere around early May or late April, I went to the chaotic nursery down the street from work and bought Pacific Giant delphiniums that were nearly four feet tall and already in bloom. They barely fit into my car, but I got them home and staked them into the cutting bed, where they did great, bursting into lovely and full bloom a few weeks later. One of them even bloomed again in September. I loved them. They were my favorite.
(At least, they were my favorite until the next thing bloomed. How many favorites have I named on here? But I digress.)
So I exercised willpower and went home from Fred Meyer sans delphiniums (but with two small poppies and a golden oregano. They were calling to me. I couldn't leave them! And I didn't know poppies came in white.) And all was well until I went out today and weeded and trimmed and mulched and planted my poppies, and noticed that one -- only one -- of my lovely delphiniums from last year is showing any growth. It's that same one that bloomed twice - bless its little heart, it's five inches tall and thrusting its little green fronds towards the sky! However, all five of its brothers and sisters are missing in action. Perennials, my ass.
You can see where this is leading.
Shortly thereafter, I actually snuck out of the house, ran to the store, bought four delphinium starters, and planted and staked them, all in stealth mode, all hoping Brett wouldn't notice. Chances are good he won't notice, actually, since he didn't notice that I ripped a six-foot tall, bright chartreuse euphorbia shrub out of the front yard today. How could you not notice that? The thing was huge. But then again, he doesn't really see plants unless I make him.
Still, the sorry truth is that I am now SNEAKING OUT OF THE HOUSE to buy plants for a house we're not going to live in, and throwing them into the ground on the sly. Because I am an addict and I cannot help myself.
I definitely think a restraining order from the future renters of this house is in my future.
Now, however, I'm back at it with a fervor, having seen the value in last year's notations. Now that I'm in year two of my garden, it's fascinating to flip back to last year's spring entries and see what was going on. What time of year last year did the lilacs bloom? When did I put the lettuce starts in? What variety of delphinium was it that I put out front? I only wish I'd written more - what the weather was like, what sorts of problems I was having and what I did about them, etc.
After blogging heavily for the last nine months or so, I now realize that the gardening blog in no way supercedes or duplicates the contents of the gardening notebook. In fact, the gardening notebook would bore to tears just about anyone who wasn't me and wasn't gardening in my yard with my plants. It is not the place that I go to record pithy observations about gardening and life - nope. It's all facts and occurrences.
Now that I see the historical value of it, I'm writing at least once a week, and writing down everything. I'm pasting in my plant tags. It's a huge book, and it will definitely last me years and years. What a handy thing this book will come to be in that time!
Here's Brett at dinner with his chocolate mousse-with-candle:
Brett says: "It's good to have a posse." (Gordon, Beth and Alan, Fran, James, Amy, Brett, and Paul)
Two years of marriage, third birthdays together:
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Taken through the back window, which was wet at the time, so there's a bit of glare and interference. This particular cat, all glossy black and bright eyed, is one of our most frequent visitors. I found him later in the process of climbing into our carport to escape the rain, maybe by snuggling up into the cat tree we moved out there six months ago. Who knows.
I find him in the kitchen now and then. For a minute I always think it's Phoenix, but Phoenix is a black tabby, all smoke-marked and gray underneath, and this cat is simply BLACK. Black as night. It's like a stealthy little shadow, moving through your house, catching you unawares.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Oh how I steeled myself for this, preparing for the hellish parking and the long wander looking for something, no anything, I liked even a little bit, for the nasty waifish society matrons and the clothing that wouldn't fit right and for the poor lighting that was just waiting to make me look gaunt and green.
But surprise surprise! I zipped right into a great parking spot next to the door. Then I waltzed into the building right next to a fabulous spring sale at Nordstroms, entering directly at the one tiny little section of the store that sold styles I actually liked. There I discovered nearly everything I was actually there to buy - mainly lots of replacement basics (long sleeve white shirts, short sleeve white shirts, basic black skirt, spring weight cardigans in interesting colors, etc).
What's more, everything fit! I could attribute this to some recent weight loss -- but I know better. Even at my skinniest, I've had heinous shopping trips where no pairs of pants can be pulled all the way up and shirts obstinately refuse to be buttoned. It's entirely random. Shopping mall, we're onto your tricks.
Within twenty minutes of arriving at my least favorite mall, I had bought eight of the ten things I wanted, discovered a couple of great things I wasn't expecting (coolest trench coat ever!), and was in (considering this is me and clothes shopping we're talking about) an especially good mood.
My luck held. I went to two other places, at both of which I found exactly what I was looking for simply and easily and (in most cases) on sale, tried them on with a minimum of fuss, and left. The whole enterprise took about ninety minutes, end to end.
Then I zipped home on the now-wide open 520 bridge, having missed the whole commute mess, and pulled into the door in time to watch the US premiere of The Office.
Not bad, my friends, not bad at all.
So of course, being all Barely Suppressed, this is the one day out of the last TEN years that we get pulled over for a speeding ticket on the way home from work. Blast those Bellevue traffic cops! What's truly ironic is that Brett is, in his own admission, one of the pokiest drivers on the planet. I'm always biting my tongue as he happily scans 520 in the morning to find out which lane is moving most slowly and then merges into it. If he's stuck behind a slow person, it almost never occurs to him to pass, even if every other lane is open. He's just... calm that way.
I'M the speed demon. I'M the one who passes like a maniac and drives way too fast. Not Brett. It's a minor miracle I haven't be ticketed a few hundred times. I'm no longer my NYC-enjoy-fighting-with-cabs-for-space-on-the-road self (secret = as a driver, never make eye contact with a cabbie), I'm still a more aggressive driver than a lot of my Seattle compatriots.
"Seattle is a wait your turn kind of place," Brett likes to tell me at moments when I suggest that he turn down the secondary road to avoid being stuck behind a light for two reds in a row, or to avoid a school bus.
But the universe being what it is, he was at the wheel when we got pulled over on Northup Way. The cop was pleasant and cut it down a bit, but he ended up getting stuck with a rather large fine. Ow. Not what we needed in the weeks of "We just purchased a house and the stock market is tanking right before we need to sell enough to cover the downpayment!"
Karma. Clearly our karma is off.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Friday, March 18, 2005
Why do I want to spend two whole years obsessively shaping and trimming these plants?
Because I think they'd look nice in my new house. *baps self in forehead*
I. Must. Be. Stopped.
For those of you interested in creating topiary, Martha would be happy to show you how.
Hopefully I won't get obsessed enough with topiary to create a 20 foot puppy, like they did in Spain.
And it's pretty much all I can think about.
I swear, it's like being in love. I have to stop myself from talking about it all the livelong day to people who I'm sure have other things on their minds. I think about it at work. I read nothing but garden and house books. I browse through furniture catalogs as if they were great works of art, some of them five or six times. Not that I can order anything right now, you realize -- we won't get the house until late April and we'll be out of the country for two weeks before, so nothing can be delivered -- but I love to look at them. I think about the house when I fall asleep. I dream about it. I draw pictures of it.
Man oh man. Thank god I'm no longer in the dating stage of my life because I forgot how obsessiveness can just GRAB hold of you and take over. At least this is positive obsession. :)
Of course, as with all things cat- and vet-related, there was much mayhem involved with this whole experience today. She shrieked and cried the WHOLE way there and then shrieked and cried the WHOLE time we were in the office (all of about five minutes, as it turned out), and finally settled down a bit on the way home. As far as vet visits go, this was an easy one - they took her from me, took some blood, weighed her, and gave her back. Really, is all this fuss necessary??
I'm curious to see what she does when we move. She did fine with the last move, when we moved in with Brett, but the move before that nearly snapped her tenuous hold on reality. When we moved into my apartment in Queen Anne, Cassie hid behind the toilet and howled for almost 24 hours. I really thought she'd snapped.
Of course, that was after she'd endured a five day drive across the country, five weeks of temporary housing downtown, and then another move on top of it. Maybe her breakdown was understandable.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Of course, the plants are all going crazy - new daffodils every day, tulips growing so much that you can practically measure the difference from day to day, grass already needing to be mowed. It hasn't rained in weeks, so I'm forced to attend in-person to various denizens of the garden that would normally be fighting off rootrot from too-plentiful rain rather than facing death via parched soil. Tonight I watered all the tulips and daffodils. Do I need to? I'm not sure, but I know that normally they'd be wet this time of year, so it seemed like a good idea.
We went to Portland this weekend (check one thing off the big list of stuff I wanted to do this year), and went to Powells, best bookstore in the known world. I bought 25 books, a mix of new and used, nearly 2/3rds of them coming from the gardening and home design sections. Among my favorites is this lovely book, Garden House, about how to bring a sense of garden into your house's interior. Highly recommended. I'm on my second read-through, having flipped through it once to goggle over the pictures and then returned to the front to read every word.
We got home today at three and I immediately had to go to Swansons, our local gardening center extraordinaire, because Ken and Andrea, who we stayed with in Portland, had a flat of nasturtiums sitting on their front walk. Nasturniums already?
Those of you who garden know well the utter covetousness with which us gardening obsessives view such things, and immediately all that mattered was that I get me some of those and pronto.
I love nasturniums. I grew a huge pot of them last year that pleased me to no end (seen at right in early spring, before it bloomed). This year, I want them spilling over the sidewalk at the base of the rock wall, out front.
Sure enough, Swansons had them, and I put in ten Empress of India nasturtiums lining the front sidewalk, in the bed where the Old House tulips are coming up. By the time the tulips are over, the nasturniums should be ready to cover them up. They're dark red. Who knows how it will look. I seem to garden almost entirely based on instinct rather than careful planning.
It was a good gardening day - besides planting the nasturtiums, I also replaced a dead Munstead lavender in the hedge I planted last year, mixing in liberal quantities of sand to improve drainage, repotted a palm from my office, planted some lettuce starts that may be goners if we have a cold snap, and scooted three cascading ornamental oreganos that were delivered from High Country Gardens last week into the rock wall. Click the link and check these out - gorgeous. I can't wait to see them, even though I'll no longer be living in this house by then.
Which brings up and interesting point. I'm not going to be living in this house by June. Why am I still planting things?
- One, it's a sickness and I can't be helped. Thank god we're not actually selling this house because if we did, I'd probably get hit with a restraining order from the new owners, after coming over a few hundred times just to check one more thing out, just to prune one more branch off the euphorbia or tuck a little more mulch around my Sceptre d'Isle rose.
- Two, we still own it, and I'll probably continue caring for at least the parking strip for the rest of this summer, unless we lease it fast and/or lease it to a gardener. My low-water-use plants still need care for another year or so before it will become self-sustaining, and it needs just a li-i-i-i-iittle bit more help from me before I can abandon it.
If I'm still saying this in three years, someone smack me.
Ingrid, who's house we're buying, came over tonight to ask me if I'd like to see the beautiful cherry tree in her (soon to be my) back yard in full and very short-lived bloom. Of course I did! We went over to gaze lovingly at it, and then yakked a bit about her plants.
Each time I wander around their yard I get more excited about living there. I can't wait for the sheer sense of discovery, for the pleasures of tucking a few of my personal favorites (heliotropes, fennel, sunflowers) in here and there, and learning to care for it all. Next weekend, Ingrid's generously agreed to walk me around the yard in detail and let me write down her advice about caring for her plants.
After I finished talking with Ingrid, I wandered down to talk to Leslie, who has the coolest parking strip on the block, and chatted for a bit while she cut everything down in preparation for another growing season. She's going to give me a division of her great big huge grass plant she has growing next weekend - excellent! That goes in the current house, not in the new house, but I'm still thrilled to get it.
The people in this neighborhood = extraordinarily nice. I'm glad we're not leaving.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Brett: You can do whatever, but just don't girl-ify the bedroom, ok?
Megan: So no ruffles?
Megan: No "My Pretty Pony" sheets?
Thursday, March 10, 2005
And of course, I'm awash in thinking about gardening at the new place. The woman who lives there has lovingly gardened there for over 20 years, and the landscaping is beautiful - I have no big plans to move in and make drastic changes to anything, at least not right away.
I think you have to live with a house's current garden and its denizens for at least a year before you change anything -- see the yard and gardens through a full cycle of seasons, see what comes up that you didn't know about, take care of what's there. You have to know a place before you swoop in and change it. Even in this house, after hanging out and/or living here for going on four years, there are still things that pop which surprise me. Where'd that white cranesbill come from? Did I plant that anemone? Surprise is part of the fun of gardening.
There are, however, three things that I will have to do rather soon after we move in. I'm realizing that a lot of my ideas about what makes a house a home revolve around plants - certain plants, certain colors or scents, that need to be in our yard. For a long time, lilacs held this association for me. Now, there are three things that I hold as more important, and that form my priority list for what I'll be trying to do over at the new house this summer:
- Install some half barrels in the back and plant tomatoes, almost immediately on taking possession. We'll be in the process of moving in the first week of May. This is prime tomato-plantin' season and I do NOT want to miss this year's crop. Tomatoes are the reason I became a gardener. So that's priority one, and will probably get done before we even officially move all of our stuff over.
- Start an herb garden on the back deck, also in containers. Over time I'll get more a sense of what I want to introduce into various planting beds, but for now I need rosemary, sage, lemon balm, parsley, tarragon, and lots and lots of lovely mints. And maybe some borage. The first thing I did in the house we're in now was install an herb garden on the back deck -- and now I can't imagine not having one.
Last year's parsley buddha:
- Put in geraniums - again this has become a home-making ritual for me. The second thing I ever did at the house we're in now, a year before we were married, was install pots and pots of red geraniums on the front steps. This past year, I moved them to a window box at the back of the house. This particular obsession comes from my visits to rural Italy, where terra cotta pots of bright geraniums mark nearly every doorstep. Before that, I thought they were rather pedestrian little plants, but over the course of those trips they became an integral part of my vision of welcome and home and warmth.
In the new house, I think I want to put two window boxes into the back yard - one beneath the kitchen window and one beneath the office that will be mine, and fill both up with red geraniums.
A picture I took in Tuscany of a typical doorstep:
So that's it - that and learn to take care of what's already there, and commune with our new backyard tree (we have a tree! a real tree!) and get to know the plants I'm caring for now.
Sounds like a nice way to spend a summer, no?
However, much is emphatically not the same in the new place. The new house has an upstairs and a basement and whole rooms we don't have furniture for yet! It has a gas stove and two ovens! It has two offices, one for each of us! It has more than one bathroom!
I'm thinking about that last bit in particular right now, as Brett has once again just headed into the bathroom with a book for what is obviously going to be a lengthy sojourn, only moments before I discovered that I rillyrilly need to go. In this house, that means I have to go amuse myself and try not to thinka about it for ten or twenty minutes; in the new house I can just head to one of two WHOLE OTHER BATHROOMS. I can use a bathroom on a different floor. I can use a bathroom that's two whole floors away if he's in the basement and I'm upstairs! Oh joy.
Aside from more pedestrian concerns like who pees where, we're also happily anticipating the process of putting a house together as a couple - it feels like a whole new stage of marriage. When we got married, I moved into the house Brett had been living in for four years. It's a great little house - all Craftsman and cute, lots of traditional moldings and charm - but it's tiny (1200 SF) and was cram-packed full of stuff before I got here. While Brett heroically made some room for me, it's still very much the house as he set it up, with some touches I've added and a few new pieces of furniture smushed in.
The new place, we're starting from scratch. It's a blank slate that we're going to create a home out of together. I'm sure some of that will be difficult (like the great paint-choosing war of last summer), but I think more of it will be fun than will be hard, and I also suspect that our hearts will be won over by the new house in a way that this house never was because of it. It will be our baby.
Should offer lots of good blogging opportunities too...
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
I hope they're not coming back for the other six. Maybe they can only carry two at a time?
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
I'm a little spazzed out. :)
All pending inspection, but the offer was accepted.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Here's the direct causal chain of events -
- Brett declares "weekend of Megan" and decides to make a cake.
- Brett goes out to buy groceries for cake making, but forgets to buy eggs. We have two, he needs three.
- Brett starts wandering from house to house down the street trying to find someone to loan him the missing egg.
- Brett ends up at Betty's house, three down, where he borrows said egg and talks to them about our upcoming remodeling project and how much he's dreading it but how we need more space and don't really want to move, yadda yadda.
- Brett comes home, and a half hour later, Betty calls us and lets us know that she just heard the neighbors across the street, whose house we've always loved, are leaving the neighborhood and that their much larger, beautiful house will soon be put on the market. We have been loudly and publicly drooling over this house for years.
- Having learned something from the last house we atttempted to buy, where we slept on it first before acting and woke up to find two other offers in ahead of us, we call the neighbors immediately. Hi, we hear you're selling. Would you be willing to think about selling your house to us? Why yes, they would! Why don't we come over tomorrow morning to see it?
At this point we're so hyped up that we can't sit still, so we do the only logical thing, which is to call up my friend Erica and take turns yattering to her like crazy people who have been eating too much sugar. She is very patient, considering that we're both literally jumping into the conversation every ten seconds, snatching the phone from each other and interceding in the conversation from across the room. Tell her this! Oh, and tell her this! Oh just give it to me!
Have I mentioned how great our friends are today? Oh, I have. :) Have I mentioned how much I like that my husband and my closest girlfriend get along well enough that he will grab the phone away from me to tell her something? Well consider that mentioned too.
So - anyways, we went to see it this morning and loved it. It's perfect. It's exactly what we wish this house was. It's got space and light and a nice flow and a big kitchen and an office for each of us and a finished basement and a guest room and more than one bathroom. We spent the afternoon closeted with our amazingly great real estate agent and friend, looking at comparable sales in and around the neighborhood, and came up with an initial offer, which we delivered an hour or so ago.
Because -- and we're really not good at hiding this -- We. Want. That. House. It's the perfect solution to our problems with this house - we don't want to leave the block because we love our neighbors, but we're cramped and crowded here. Our remodel plans were a compromise at best, just fixing it up enough to be liveable, but still leaving us with a lot of essential shortcomings in the house. But this solves everything, and saves us months of messy remodel work and living without a kitchen.
So we'll see. We'll probably have at least a handshake deal set in the next few days, and something definitive in a week or so.
But the moral of the story, I think, is that if you want good things to happen in your life, all you need to do is make a cake.
So when Brett got up on Saturday and started baking me a birthday cake, two days ahead of my birthday, I didn't think all that much about it. It seemed a little strange that he was fixated on doing it then, but I just figured he wanted to give me as much time to enjoy our cake as possible over the weekend. Provide me with my breakfast food of choice for two days - that's all.
But as it turns out, he was being very sneaky. :) After he finished the baking and frosting, we had a piece of cake and then hurried off to a 3:00 movie we'd been wanting to see - "A Very Long Engagement" with Audrey Tautou. While we were out, eight or nine friends snuck into our house and set up a potluck of cakes -- a cakeluck, as Brett called it -- and then hid in the kitchen while we came in.
I was completely taken by surprise! In fact, I think this may be the first surprise party I've ever been the recipient of in my whole life. It took me a minute to even realize anything was awry - everyone was being very quiet in the kitchen until I finally noticed the vast array of delicious goodies on the dining room table and said, "What's all this?" Then SURPRISE - a whole parade of people stream out of the back of the house. Very funny.
We had chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, homemade carrot cake (Erica's specialty and always amazing), chocolate cupcakes, and Brett's yellow cake (still my favorite). There were lilies and pale peach roses perfuming the whole room - I love the scent of lilies. (Thank you Beth and Alan!) We had pizza and wine and good ruby port. We had jazz playing in the background while everyone told stories of what their lives were like the year they turned 36. Someone gave me a cake platter, and someone gave me a cozy blanket and girl movies.
It was, all in all, the nicest birthday I can remember in some time. I'm so grateful to have such good friends, and for the world's sneakiest-in-a-good-way husband. :)
I love my late thirties. Life just keeps getting better and better.
First a few action shots - the man, the apron, the headphones, and some cake batter:
Brettorino. The Brett-meister. Makin' frosting:
(Why am I channeling Rob Schneider? I don't know.)
And the end result - isn't it beautiful?
It was yummy, too.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
So I was lying in bed reading this morning shortly after waking up, and Brett walked by and stopped to rub my feet.
"This is the official beginning of the weekenf of Megan," he says, rubbing away.
"Wow, I could get used to this!" I said.
He gave me a look. "It's the weekend of Megan, not the eternity of Megan."
Friday, March 04, 2005
What is it watching, I'd like to know?